World no. 3 and the US Open champion Dominic Thiem is among the favorites at Roland Garros that starts on Sunday. The Austrian should be among the title contenders with Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, never losing before the semi-final in the previous four years and fighting for the title in 2018 and 2019.
Thiem lost those title matches to Rafael Nadal, arriving in Paris with more confidence this year following the first Major crown in New York in that thrilling final against Alexander Zverev. In the third quarter, Dominic has to topple names like Marin Cilic, Casper Ruud, Felix Auger-Aliassime, Stan Wawrinka, Andy Murray, Diego Schwartzman, Borna Coric and Gael Monfils en route to the semi-final clash against Rafael Nadal.
Thiem had a chance to practice on Thursday and feel the court that should be much different in comparison to the previous years, with new Wilson balls and much colder weather from what we usually have in June. Still, Dominic recalled his first Roland Garros semi-final against Novak Djokovic from 2016, saying it can't be much colder from those 11 degrees Celsius.
Novak Djokovic advanced to his fourth Roland Garros final following a commanding 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 victory over Dominic Thiem four years ago, staying on the course for that elusive Roland Garros crown. Thiem had a great tournament, but it wasn't enough to challenge world no.
1 on that day, dropping almost half of the points behind the initial shot and suffering six breaks from 13 opportunities offered to Novak. Djokovic played a rock-solid match from start to finish, adding 15 winners and unforced errors to his tally, while Thiem was on a 27-34 ratio.
Knowing he has to take the rallies' initiative, Thiem couldn't find his best strokes that would draw Novak away from the comfort zone, as the Serb was flying over the court. Dominic had to give his best to win the points, and even in those situations, Novak was there in contention, not letting anything for free.
Dominic Thiem is seeking first Roland Garros crown, a few weeks after winning US Open.
Djokovic's unreal consistency at Majors just became better following this triumph, reaching his sixth consecutive final and mindblowing 18th from the last 23 Major events!
Novak showed his determination in the first return game, breaking Thiem in the second game and opening a 4-1 gap in no time at all, losing two points in three service games. Djokovic saved a break point at 4-2 to clinch the set in the next one, stealing Dominic's serve for the second time and winning the opener 6-2.
Thiem was powerless on his serve, as it seemed Novak could break him any time he wanted. The Serb caused troubles in all four return games, with Thiem unable to fend off that pressure with quick and easy points. Novak carried on in the same rhythm in set number two, delivering an even more effective result.
Thiem finally had a comfortable service game at the start of the set, but that didn't help him much, as Novak broke him in game four to build a 3-1 lead. Another break in game six pushed Djokovic 5-1 up, bringing the set home soon after that.
Djokovic was brutal in this part of the match, giving away four points behind the initial shot and having the upper hand on the return. Thiem was on the positive side of the scoreboard for some time in an early stage of the third set, breaking Novak in the second game to forge a 3-0 advantage.
Djokovic had the answer for this little setback, raising his game to break Thiem twice in a row and rattling off five straight games, losing seven points in those. Leading 5-4, Novak served for the match and did it well after saving a break point, converting the first match point to secure the fourth Roland Garros final ticket.
"I clearly remember playing the 2016 semi-final against Novak Djokovic. The thermometer read 11 degrees. I don't think it will be much colder than that," Dominic Thiem said.